Friday, April 23, 2010

At Sea: The Ladies

We have now been on this ship two weeks. Having left Dubai, it will be more than a week before we dock again. As the cruise director said on the PA system this morning, "We will all get to know each very well."

Actually, he's about 10 days too late with that observation, at least for the group I will call The Ladies.

These are the women, mostly Australians, who have more or less formed a social corner on the pool deck and every morning, noon and night at least a couple of them can be found sitting there chatting with the others. Oh, some men sit around with them. This isn't the laundry room, after all. But the men know their place. They sit, listen, hear themselves occasionally talked about as if they weren't present and then wander off so The Ladies can talk about them in even more detail.

You would be wrong, however, to think that The Ladies are picking on the men when they chat about them. Oh no. These women are more than willing to tell some of the deepest secrets of their lives to people who were perfect strangers when this month began. We know whose ex-husband suddenly proclaimed himself gay, who is being treated for depression, who had a baby in her early teens, who got canned from a job. And for just about all of them, we have a fairly well detailed medical history.

This is the reason, of course, why the men aren't taking much part in this chat fest. For example, if a guy is suffering from diarrhea, his natural tendency is to keep it to himself. Even when we're fat, wrinkled and past 60, we still don't want women wondering if we have skid marks in our daks. But to The Ladies, this is just another topic in which everyone gets their chance to talk about their own personal experience, offer suggestions on how to deal with it, and in the case of a couple, tell a few funny stories about it.

Here's another example. If one of my kids has done something less than wonderful, I tend to think it's best left within the family. The Ladies, of course, will tell you which unmarried kid is pregnant by a no-good, which one can't get a job and is on the dole, which one is in therapy, which one is falling in love with a boy from Brazil. I still don't know why that's a problem, but I have learned that Don't Ask Don't Tell works perfectly fine when sitting with The Ladies.

What concerns me most is that this massive information exchange has happened in the part of the cruise where we were stopping at various ports. What in the world are they going to talk about during the next 8 days when there is nothing to do but sit around and talk? LK insists she doesn't share many intimate details with the group and that the group hasn't really noticed that she's hearing much more than she's saying.

But I have two large worries about the coming days. First, at what point is LK going to have to ante up to The Ladies bar? I will know it has happened on the day one of The Ladies asks me how I'm doing with my diarrhea.

The second worry is even more serious. What if I am so bored that I start talking about it and tell a few funny personal stories?

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